The mage throws the spell at Derek, and it hits him square in the chest. Derek flies back, twenty or thirty feet, and slams against a tree with a painful crack. He thinks his back is broken in a few places because he can't really move. He's about to dig his claws into the tree and drag himself up when...something happens. It feels like he's shifting, but—it's not exactly. It's unfamiliar and strange.
Derek's arm, when he lifts it, is warping right in front of his eyes, muscles writhing under his skin in motions like the sea.
It's oddly beguiling.
Then the pain hits and Derek screams until he passes out.
He wakes up at Deaton's. He tries to jackknife into a sitting position, but his balance is off so he just ends up awkwardly pulling himself into a half-slumped position.
Isaac, Scott and Stiles are over by a counter, pressed closed to one another. They're wide-eyed and tense. Next to them, Deaton is watching Derek carefully.
“What happened?” Derek asks. “Did you get--”
That's not his voice.
It's coming from him, but it's not his.
Deaton walks over. “How are you feeling?”
Derek doesn't answer. He's caught sight of his right leg, which is hanging off the edge of the table. His jeans—and he knows they're his; he can smell that they're his—are too loose around his thigh, and the hem is too long.
He clenches his hands into fists and glares at Deaton. “What did it do to me?”
Deaton pauses, considers Derek blandly, then nods. “The mage's spell seems to have changed your sex.”
Derek inhales raggedly, then slowly looks down at his chest—at his breasts. He holds out his hands and stares at the narrower palms, the more slender fingers. He touches those same fingers to his face and it's unfamiliar, even beyond the strange smoothness.
Derek feels strung tight to the point of snapping as he sits there on the exam table. He ignores the looks everyone sends him—compassionate, shocked, amused, blank—and doesn't say a word as they try to figure out the best way to turn him back.
He moves as little as possible, doesn't tilt his head to look down at himself, and nods when Deaton outlines the two possible solutions.
When they finish and the others have left, Deaton says, "We'll fix this." His tone is nicer than it's been any other time he's spoken to Derek in the last nine months, full of reassurance and steadfast calm. "I promise."
Derek swallows past a lump lodged in his throat and slides off the table. Walking is foreign; he's like something stilted and new, on wobbly legs just hours old. He clenches one hand into a fist and, with the other, leaves claw marks in the walls as he makes his way out of the clinic.
In the Camaro, Derek stares fixedly through the windshield, the rearview mirror carelessly shoved upwards, and doesn't use the sideview mirrors at all.
There's a single mirror in Derek's loft, located in the bathroom. As soon as he gets home, he covers it with a towel, eyes averted.
He climbs into bed, lays himself flat, and tucks a pile of blankets over himself from chin to toe. This is how he'll wait for the inevitable call that they've found the mage and gotten the necessary droplet of blood needed to make him him again. He stares at the ceiling and doesn't sleep, doesn't think, doesn't consider the body hidden by layers upon layers of fabric.
Ten hours later, Derek is still waiting for that call, and struggling to ignore the pressure in his bladder. He flails a thin arm out of his cocoon and calls Deaton.
"Any news?" Derek asks in this new voice that isn't his.
Deaton sighs. "It's not going to be as simple as we first thought."
Derek's mouth flattens out. "The mage."
Deaton makes a sound of agreement. "He's left town. We've failed at tracking him through unconventional means. Stiles is going to try more mundane routes tomorrow."
Without the mage, Deaton will need to pick apart what he knows of how the mage created the spell, compare it to countless spells in existence that could potentially cause a change like this, and then laboriously craft a way to counter it.
Nothing in Derek's life has gone the easy way. It was only desperation that had him clinging to the belief that they'd find the mage in town within a few hours.
"Worst case scenario. How long?"
There's a long pause. Derek can practically smell the reluctance through the connection. "Several months. At least."
Derek spends another three hours in bed, seriously contemplating just pissing himself to avoid the bathroom. There's no way he can exist like this for months, though. Not with the Alpha Pack having announced themselves, Isaac needing more training, and Peter out there in the wild gathering intel on Erica and Boyd's location.
He stumbles to the bathroom, his breathing shallow, and fumbles at the button on his jeans with unsteady hands. They pool at his ankles the moment he unfastens them, once they're no longer caught on his differently shaped hips.
When he's finished, he stands up only to drop to the floor when his knees give out on him. He heaves endlessly into the toilet, eyes streaming long after he's done. He spends the night curled up on the bathroom floor, body shuddering so violently it's like being in the midst of the mage's spell all over again.
Derek gives himself exactly forty-eight hours in his apartment before he resumes what passes for a life with him. Isaac has been staying with his foster parents since the attack and not coming around much. Derek appreciates the space and privacy, the sentiment behind it, but there's too much going on for it to continue. He calls Isaac over for a training session.
Isaac watches him warily. "How are you--"
"We need to train harder," Derek says. "There's no telling when the Alpha Pack is going to make a move. We have to be prepared."
Derek runs Isaac through his paces but holds himself back from demonstrating too much. At night, in the tore up room on the other side of the hole in the brick wall, Derek relearns everything from the bottom up. He lets muscle memory have its way at first, learns how to compensate for his center of gravity, for all the ways in which he moves differently, has different strengths and weaknesses.
When he's done for the night, Derek cloaks himself with blankets and forces himself to breathe, steady and even, until his body gives in and falls asleep.
The towel stays over the mirror.
Derek's eyes fix on tile when he showers, quick and perfunctorily.
He tightens the belt on his jeans, cuffs them at the hem, and rolls up the sleeves of his jackets.
He stuffs newspaper at the toes of his boots and laces them extra tightly.
He tucks in his Henley, then pulls it out again to cover the concave of his waist, the convex of his hips.
Derek drops by the clinic every other day so that Deaton can examine the remnants of magic that cling less and less to him.
Scott is always there, usually working with the animals while Derek perches, statue-like, on a table as Deaton's hands hover mere inches from Derek's skin, which covers a body that's not his.
Three weeks in, Deaton stops the exam practically as soon as it begins.
Before Deaton can open his mouth, Derek says, flatly, "The magic's faded, hasn't it?"
Deaton nods. "More time with it would have been better, but I gleaned a lot of information already." He makes some notes in a thick, leather bound journal. "Stiles and I have been making process going through the potentials."
Derek has been learning, these last few weeks, to hear the significance in what Deaton doesn't say. He licks his lips and then clears his throat. "Do you—is there a chance--"
Deaton looks up quickly, eyes sharp. He doesn't speak right away. There's nothing on his face to hint at what he's thinking. "It's going to take longer than I estimated initially."
After that, it's harder.
A week later, Derek is back at Deaton's; the Alphas have made a move. When everyone clears out, Derek lags behind.
"This is going to get bad," Derek says, even though it's obvious and doesn't really need stating. Deaton nods, face expectant. "Make it a priority." Derek's eyes flicker over to the leather bound book. "Over everything else."
Deaton nods slowly. "If you're sure."
Now it's impossible.
The mirror in the bathroom is full-length, attached to the door.
Derek stands in front of it and, slowly, peels off his clothes until he's naked. He kicks the discarded clothes away and reaches out with a trembling hand. The towel falls away from the mirror with a firm tug and then Derek's standing there facing...he's not sure what he's facing. It's not himself. It's not the strongly muscled masculine body he's pushed and pushed himself to forge.
No, it's something else.
Derek's eyes catch on the curve of his hips, the shape of his waist, and the swell of his breasts. His face is drawn more softly than it used to be, his lips fuller. He traces rounded lines where there used to be angular juts, and marvels at the softness of his skin.
He turns to the side, admires the way his breasts sway and settle, and draws in a rushed breath when he looks down and doesn't see a dick and balls awkwardly hanging. His pubic hair is coarse when he slides a hand between his legs, fingers examining folds of skin and brushing against his clit in a way that makes him shiver.
Derek touches everywhere, looks everywhere, and when he's done he's not surprised to find tears in his eyes and a small, helpless smile tugging at his lips.
Derek spends hours in the mall going from one store to the next. He thumbs through racks of clothes slowly and considers every garment he comes across. He's not sure what he wants, what he likes, so he gets a variety of pieces, styles, colors and materials. He gets fitted for a bra and picks out handfuls of bras and matching panties.
By the time he's ready to leave Derek has so many bags of clothing and shoes that it's a bit of a juggling act to keep hold of all of them. He's wearing an outfit home, a pair of tight jeans and a dark green top made of something delicate and almost sheer. He likes the way the shirt looks, but he's not sure about the flimsy material—it's a little too fragile for his life.
He leaves through Macy's and finds himself wandering towards the make-up department. He slides into a chair at the MAC counter and when he leaves an hour later, it's with another bag and a delicate touch of make-up on his face.
The next day he goes to a salon and gets his short hair shaped and styled into something that is more flattering to this face, then pays extra to get his eyebrows waxed. On his way home he buys a leather jacket to act as a protective barrier between attacking claws and the new shirts in his wardrobe.
Isaac frowns in confusion but doesn't say anything. The same can't be said for Stiles, who goes on and on about Derek's new look in his new body. Deaton acts as though nothing has changed. Scott, though, Scott watches Derek closely, and there's nothing at all confused in his expression.
It's been three months. They're dealing with the Alphas here and there. Deaton continues to backburner a resolution to Derek's situation.
Derek thinks about the bulk packages of shirts, underwear and socks, and the cheap jeans, that were once his wardrobe. Her current wardrobe has a lot of jeans, but also more than a few skirts, and she tends to favor dramatic tops that follow her curves and accent her shape.
He used to grab for items blindly, without care, and shove them onto his body carelessly. Now, each morning she eyes the ever-growing assortment of clothing she owns, considers what she'll be doing, who she'll be seeing, what kind of mood she's in, and makes choices with exact deliberation.
He owned two pairs of shoes, but she has seven. She stands in front of the mirror, dressed and ready, and tries them on to see which pair looks best.
She learns how to paint lips that have a tendency to curl with secretive smiles.
They're back at Deaton's after an encounter with the Alpha pack that injured all of them. Derek finishes healing and stretches out on a hideous green sofa in the backroom Deaton has relegated them to. Isaac and Stiles are over by a disused exam table; Isaac's taking some of the pain of the bruises on Stiles' torso.
Derek watches them lazily, fingers rubbing under her eyes to scrape up smeared eyeliner and mascara. Scott sidles over and Derek moves her legs so he can sit at the far end of the sofa. When Scott doesn't say anything, Derek glances over curiously.
Scott gives her a distracted half-smile. He's looking Derek over, eyes holding on the painted red of Derek's fingernails, on her made-up face and skinny jeans and even on her cleavage.
"You look good," Scott says. "Almost—well, not happy. Content. You look content."
Derek grins at him. "Yeah."
Scott nods. "Cool. So, like, what pronoun do you prefer?"
Derek laughs like something free and flying.
She buys more mirrors. Ones for the walls, one for over the sink in the bathroom, one with a built in light and a magnifying side.
She expects it to be a thing. But it's not. Not really. Deaton's leather book disappears. Isaac doesn't say anything but he does show up unexpectedly and they spend a night watching movies on a borrowed laptop on Derek's velvet blue sofa. Stiles is the only one who addresses it directly, and that's only to soberly apologize for the snarky comments he made along the way.
Derek feels good, feels right, and it's even better knowing that it's okay with the people around her, too.
Then Peter comes back.
Derek tenses at the loft door, shoulders squaring and jaw clenching, when she recognizes Peter's scent in the hall. He's sitting on the sofa when she lets herself in and he watches her like a hawk as she hangs up her coat and kicks off her heels.
"Well." He leans back on the sofa and stretches his arms along the back. "This is interesting."
"Any sign of Erica and Boyd?" Derek asks.
Peter ignores her. "I can't say I saw this coming, but I'm actually far less surprised than I should be. Remember when you were six? You stole all of Laura's clothes out of her room and wouldn't wear any of your own."
Derek didn't remember that until this very minute, and she flinches. She wore Laura's clothes for weeks, her parents rolling their eyes in ever-decreasing amusement until they finally sat her down and explained that she couldn't wear girl clothes because she was a boy. She remembers wanting to say that no, she wasn't a boy, she was a girl, but something in her parents' expressions and tones of voice made her swallow the words down, not just then but forever. Made her pretend as hard as she could that she really was a boy.
It reminds her of another moment years later, long after the fire, when she and Laura were in New York. Their neighbor was a trans man, and Derek didn't think about it consciously, but in the back of her head she recognized the incompatibility of Mike's transition and werewolf healing.
Derek wore her masculine body like something ill fitting and belonging to someone else, even as she spent hours exercising it into the pinnacle of wholly male musculature in an effort to own it until it felt like hers.
It never did, never would have.
"Are we going to have a problem?" Derek asks Peter outright.
Peter rolls his eyes. "I'm sure you'll be just as pathetic, ineffective, and tiresome as ever, so I'm sure we'll have many problems."
Derek's a little annoyed at herself for how relieved she is to know Peter isn't going to use this against her.
They get Boyd back two days after Peter returns with intel. Boyd is tense only as long as it takes for him to lean into Derek's space. Then he relaxes. "Your base scent's still the same."
Derek tries not to think of Erica, who is never coming back, but she paints her lips apple red for days afterward.
Chris Argent hasn't had much to say about Derek until now. Of course, usually Derek's only seen him when the shit is hitting the fan. Tonight, they're trying to get ahead of both the shit and the fan, so everyone is gathered at the edge of the preserve.
Chris sighs heavily when Derek strides up, then eyes her from head to toe with a curl of his lips. It makes Derek's shoulders straighten. She very badly wants to bare her teeth at Chris.
Tension starts running through the others, probably a feedback loop from her to the wolves, which the humans have picked up on. She forces herself to shake it off and waves at Chris to go over the patrol grids.
The tension fades away until Chris is winding down.
"Boyd and Derek, you've got the southwest quadrant. And Boyd, don't go off on your own if Derek's late. Wait for him and--"
"Her," Stiles interrupts sharply, and the tension returns to the group.
Chris looks at him in surprise. "What?"
"Boyd should wait for her."
Chris's is expression is annoyed. "Seriously?"
Stiles bristles like a cat; it's sort of hilarious. "Do you have a problem with trans people?"
It's the first time anyone's referred to Derek as trans in her presence. It fits, she knows it does, even if her transition wasn't like others', but she's been more concerned with moving through life as she is now than in defining herself.
Everyone seems to have respected that. They've treated Derek as they always have, but they use the right pronouns and they haven't given her crap about the fact that she doesn't want to change her name. Well, except for Stiles suggesting increasingly ridiculous female names, which is really pretty typical of Stiles when it comes to Derek, so that doesn't count.
Chris starts to laugh, but Derek feels the others coming in closer to her. Chris' mouth closes and he rubs his forehead tiredly. "I don't have anything against trans people, I--"
"Let me guess," Boyd says from somewhere behind Derek. "Your best friend is trans, right?"
Scott makes a choking sound and mutters something under his breath about bingo cards.
Stiles, though, is still puffed up and confrontational. "If you're not a transphobic asshat, then you can use the right pronouns."
Chris' eyes move from one person to the next and he shifts awkwardly. "All right."
Just as they're about to split up into groups, Derek squeezes the back of Stiles' neck in gratitude.
Later that night she starts looking into online trans boards and sites.
She keeps a pair of his old clothes in the back of a drawer and pulls them out every once in a while. She holds them up to her body in front of a free standing full length mirror by her bed and then tosses them aside like so much wrongness just so she can revel in how right she now is.
After the Alpha pack has been dealt with, Derek goes to see Deaton.
"There's always a consequence to magic like this," Derek says. "It's why I never..."
Deaton nods. "That's true. This situation is different. If you'd sought this out, or even tried to perform it on yourself, there'd be cause for concern. As it is, the only one who will be suffering the mystical consequences is the caster."
Derek holds her breath. "Are you sure?"
"There's no disruption in your aura, and there aren't any remnants clinging to you that might create repercussions." When Derek doesn't relax, Deaton studies her for a moment and then blinks, suddenly, in understanding. "And it won't suddenly reverse itself, Derek."
"But it can be undone—the mage could undo it." Derek's had nightmares about that, about losing herself.
Deaton walks over to a cabinet and rummages through it. He brings Derek a necklace. There's a polished stone wrapped in a gold cage and hanging from a length of leather. "Wear this for now. I'll find something more permanent to protect you from a reversal."
Derek clutches the stone in her hand. "Thank you."
Summer comes and Derek wears sundresses and sandals, and grows her hair out. She visits the cemetery in late July. It's a sweltering day full of humidity, and she re-introduces herself to her family, tells them she kept her name but nothing else.
She's not at all different than she used to be, except in all the ways that count, and nothing has really changed since he was cast off, except everything important.